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Bishkek – Dushanbe: exchange of “courtesies” and…Russian frontier guards

Almazbek Atambayev and Nuralisho Nazarov. Photo: svoboda.org

There may be a proper row between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It has already happened. Simply Tajikistan has so far involved in it at the level of an expert, though former high-ranking military. Nuralisho Nazarov, ex deputy commander of Tajikistan’s frontier troops came out for deployment of Russian frontier guards on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to increase security of Kyrgyzstan and Russia, according to Radio Ozodi, RFE/RL local service.

The general came out with such a suggestion following Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev’s statement on the heels of his visit to Russia and meeting with President Vladimir Putin. In particular, Almazbek Atambayev said he suggested “sending Russian military closer to the border with Tajikistan instead of increasing the number of Russian military at Kant Air Base.” According to Atambayev, there is no need to increase Bishkek’s security. Meantime, Taliban and ISIS (terrorist organizations banned in Russia) have gained foothold in Afghanistan.

Actually, the Kyrgyz leader cast doubt on Tajikistan’s military capacity and did it in public. Dushanbe’s response has been reflected so far in Nuralisho Nazarov’s statement. According to informed sources, Dushanbe will yet express its official stance.

“Russian Frontier Troops were deployed on Russia’s border with Kazakhstan after they were withdrawn from the Tajik-Afghan section of the border in 2005. Then that step aimed to prevent penetration of terrorist groups and drug traffickers into Russia via Central Asian countries. If Russian military are deployed on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, they will defend security of Kyrgyzstan and Russia,” Nazarov told Radio Ozodi. To prevent penetration of terrorists from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan, the general said, it is necessary to improve security of the border with Uzbekistan with the help of Russian military. “There is also a threat of penetration of Taliban and ISIS terrorists to Kyrgyzstan via the territory of Uzbekistan that is bordering with Afghanistan.”

Moscow and Dushanbe have not commented on Atambayev’s statement yet. Anyway, Russian president’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the issue has not been commented.

Alexander Knyazev, an expert in Central Asia and Middle East, assessed the situation talking to EADaily : “Incompetence of politicians and military who come out with such statements is embarrassing. After withdrawal from the Tajik-Afghan border, Russian Frontier Troops were not deployed on Kyrgyz-Kazakh border. That issue has never been discussed with anyone. There has been no problem of penetration of terrorists and drug traffickers into Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan via the territory of Uzbekistan. Historically, there was such drug trafficking in quite different sequence. In 1999 and 2000, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants were let via the territory of Tajikistan and then tried to penetrate into Uzbekistan.”

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When speaking of ant threats emerging from Afghanistan, the expert said, one should ask whether Tajikistan is capable of defending its border with Afghanistan and whether Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan can control their border considering the low level of their frontier guard service. “In addition, certain religious practices with doubtful ideology are observed at Kyrgyz Frontier Guard system. Activists of Tablighi Jamaat extremist organization, which is legal in Kyrgyzstan but banned in Russia and all the other countries in the region, occupy high positions at Kyrgyz Frontier Troops and other military and police organizations. In case of any instability, there will be no need to export threats from outside, as the threats inside the country, including government machinery, will be enough,” Knyazev said.

Deployment of a Russian military base in Kyrgyz part of Fergana Valley is not a new issue. It has been discussed for long years and even geographic locations of the base were named: Osh, Kyzyl-Kia, Batken. A question aroused as to whether Russia needed such base considering the threats emerging from Afghanistan? Hypothetical creation of a Russian military base in the region requires agreement with Uzbekistan. Geographically, a Russian base in any of the above locations will have an impact on Tashkent’s interests which the sides need to reckon with,” Alexander Knyazev said. “Russia’s military presence within CSTO – Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan and 201st military base in Tajikistan – is more than enough. Military cooperation is developed dynamically and Russia’s military resources will be sufficient to rebuff any threats. All possible threats may not be military. Any Russian military presence will become senseless if local security organizations – the Tajik and Kyrgyz ones – fail to implement their functions and tasks. Therefore, problems in security forces of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan shall be discussed on a priority basis rather than deployment of new Russian troops.”

Having visited Afghanistan recently, Knyazev made sure that speaking of extrapolation of the situation inside Afghanistan over other countries in Central Asia, one should take into account the fact that there is still no government as an efficient institution in Afghanistan able to control the country’s territory, counteract a series of threats, including arms and drug trafficking, destabilization in the north - in directions of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. “The problem is not that Taliban is approaching the Tajik border. The problem is that Afghan government is not able to control its territory. There can be no military cross-border attacks on Tajikistan and many-kilometer-long raids of certain militants via Tajikistan towards Kyrgyz border. However, destabilization in the north of Afghanistan enables forces opposing Central Asian countries gain foothold there and along with growing contraband, that destabilization hinders implementation of many transit projects, and projects that would boost economic development of the region. These issues cannot be settled by force. Radicalization of the population and growth of extremist groups and cells in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have become a self-reproducing factor of destabilization. Meantime, what is happening in the north of Afghanistan can be nothing but catalyzer,” Knyazev said.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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